Ceremony to honor veterans
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Friday, November 8, 2019
Although the Veterans Day ceremony in Rocky Mount is going to be at 11 a.m. on Monday, James Ervin and his fellow veterans will be heading to Southern Nash Middle School today to share their experiences with students there.
Ervin, 77, who is a member of American Legion Post 110 in Nashville, said the longtime routine in advance has been for a roster of veterans to be posted at the school.
Ervin said each student takes down the name of a veteran and sends that veteran an invitation to come to the campus.
“So it gets one-on-one, real personal,” Ervin said.
Today’s program at Southern Nash Middle is from 9-11 a.m.
As for what he is going to tell the student who invited him, Ervin laughed and said, “Well, they ask all the questions. We try to be as honest as we can without being morbid or gruesome about certain events.”
Ervin spoke of the students thinking of fighting and war when they think of soldiers, so the gathering will provide him and his fellow veterans the chance to let the students see the other side of those who were warriors.
“We’re citizens just like everybody else,” Ervin said.
Veterans Day is the national holiday honoring veterans of the armed forces and those killed in America’s wars. The observance can be traced back to 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I.
The main local Veterans Day gathering will be at the Rocky Mount Veterans Memorial at Jack Laughery Park off North Church Street.
As for what Veterans Day means to him, Ervin, who served stateside during the Vietnam War, spoke of losing several friends as a result of the fighting in Southeast Asia.
“It always reminds me of the life unlived by friends that I knew and went to school with,” Ervin said. “I always think about the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Ervin also said he of course thinks about the sacrifices veterans made during other conflicts and wars.
His military service was from 1963-75, in the Army and the Army Reserve.
Rocky Mount-based American Legion Post Commander Willie Smith, 71, served in the Army from 1968-93, including in then-South Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
As for what Veterans Day means to him, Smith spoke of recently going to Tarboro to see The Wall That Heals, which is a three-quarter replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Smith said of seeing the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “It means that I made it home.”
More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Southeast Asia.
Smith spoke about how tough the situation was at the time of the Vietnam War, both due to the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia and the anti-war opposition in the United States.
Additionally, Smith had to report to begin his military service on April 10, 1968, six days after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
Smith admired and respected King.
“It’s hard because, see, once I got to Fort Bragg, they were training me to go to war, plus training me to do riot control,” he said.
Charles Minton, who is commandant of the Cpl. Suzi Sannes Detachment 1262 of the Marine Corps League, said he will not be able to attend the ceremony at Jack Laughery Park. That is because Minton works in facilities maintenance at the McLane food service facility off Meadowbrook Road.
However, Minton said plans at the facility are for a ceremony at 9 a.m. on Monday, with U.S. and service branch flags to be raised.
He also said the plan is to place placards out in honor of each employee who served in the military, with the gathering to include each veteran standing behind his or her respective placard.
Then, he said, there will be a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem.
Minton, 54, served in the Marines from 1983-2005.
Today, Minton said, “I mean, it’s a whole new breed of veterans out there — and it’s just amazing what these young men and women are doing on the battlefield and at home.”
Asked to elaborate, Minton said, “With today’s society, they’re smarter. They know a lot more.
“And they’re more technology inclined. And the warfare is moving that way and they’re easier to adapt to what’s going on in front of them,” he said.
Tarboro also will be the scene of two Veterans Day gatherings.
The first is the Pilot Club’s 28th Veterans Day Observance, which will be at 11 a.m. on Monday at the Veterans Memorial in the Town Common.
The second will be at 1 p.m., also on Monday, under the mural on the south side of the Colonial Theater and adjacent to the Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum.
The plan at the second gathering is to conduct a memorial brick laying below the murals. The museum conducts brick layings twice yearly.
To order a brick, phone the museum at 252-823-0891.